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Venezuela5 July 2007

Journalist’s car explodes outside his home a few days after he resigns as website editor

Journalist Roger Santodomingo’s car mysteriously exploded and caught fire outside his Caracas home yesterday, just a few days after he resigned as editor of the news and opinion website Noticiero Digital because of threats against his seven-year-old son, Simón. The car was completely gutted by the fire.

Santodomingo has just asked the National Council for Children’s Rights to protect his son following the threats, which included a mysterious message inserted into his school performance report calling Santodomingo a “traitor to his country.”

Santodomingo gave the threats as his reason for resigning this week as editor of Noticiero Digital, a popular website that is critical of President Hugo Chávez. Santodomingo has also been the target of attacks and smears from the government and the state-owned media

“Not content with pushing him to the limit and threatening his son, his most virulent detractors continue to persecute him even after he resigned,” Reporters Without Borders said. “What are his assailants trying to achieve? The investigation should seek the answer to this question. In the meantime, young Simón Santodomingo should be granted the protection requested by his father. We appeal again to the authorities to rein in their most radical militants and to guarantee the safety of this journalist and his family.”

04.07.07 - “Detestable” methods used to force journalist to resign as popular website’s editor

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its full support for Roger Santodomingo, who resigned as editor of the news and opinion website Noticiero Digital after being the target of a smear campaign and after threats against his young son. The use of such methods against a recognised journalist was “detestable,” the organisation said.

“The smears and intimidation of Santodomingo by such base means unfortunately say a lot about the current political and media climate, which was exacerbated by the withdrawal of RCTV’s broadcast licence on 27 May,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Santodomingo did not deserve to be pilloried for his work as an editor, and even less to see his family threatened.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We hope that an investigation will expose those responsible for the threats. We also call on the authorities and those close to the government to put a stop to the smears and to rein in their more zealous militants.”

Santodomingo resigned as Noticiero Digital editor after a message accusing him of being a “traitor to his country” was circulated on 27 June in the school that his young son, Simon, attends. He told Reporters Without Borders he had received threatening phone calls and emails in recent weeks saying, for example, that his son “had been left on his own at school and could have problems crossing the road.”

A member of the Young Communists in his youth and a former Amnesty International activist, Santodomingo is now a well-known journalist who worked for the daily newspaper Tal Cual, the TV station Venevisión and the BBC before taking charge of the website.

“Noticiero Digital is a very popular media outlet that became even more popular after the RCTV affair, to the point of getting an average of 300,000 visitors,” Santodomingo told Reporters Without Borders. “It has become forum for comment that is virtually out of its own management’s control because of its totally open nature.”

Regarded as an opposition website, it has become one of the bugbears of the government and the governmental media. The site and Santodomingo have been regular targets on La Hojilla (“The Razorblade”), a propaganda programme on the public TV station Venezolana de Televisión whose chief object is to undermine the reputations of opposition news media and journalists. Among the accusations made against Santodomingo was that of being a “CIA agent” for taking a trip to the United States seven years ago.

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in the annual report
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